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Coyotes to furlough half of club employees through June 30

A fan looks in the team shop window outside of Gila River Arena where the NHL Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks were scheduled to play on March 12, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes announced Friday that they are furloughing 50% of the organization’s employees through June 30 as the coronavirus outbreak has put a pause on the NHL season.

The team said in a press release that it will still cover 100% of the health benefits for furloughed employees. The furlough is effective immediately.

“This decision was necessary given the significant impact the pandemic has had on the sports, entertainment, casino and hotel industries,” the statement said.

The Coyotes were purchased this summer by new billionaire majority owner Alex Meruelo, whose businesses include casinos and entertainment in Nevada. Like those businesses, his hockey team has surely been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the NHL put its season on an indefinite hiatus on March 12.

It’s not clear which departments will and will not be affected by the furlough.

In March, the Coyotes and Meruelo announced that he would “support” arena employees and Coyotes and Roadrunners full and part-time employees through April 15 as many faced lost income due to the postponement or cancellation of games.

“The developing COVID-19 situation is having a huge impact on our community and, like many companies, we are working through the challenges during this unprecedented time,” Meruelo said in Friday’s statement. “This was an extremely difficult decision for me and my family. We never anticipated that the situation would escalate to the point of shutting down some of our businesses. It doesn’t appear that the NHL will resume play in the immediate future, so this decision was necessary.

“We all remain hopeful that hockey will be back soon and look forward to welcoming back our team members at that time. It’s never easy to take steps that affect the lives of our team members and their families and I would like to thank them for their patience and understanding during this very difficult time. We will get through this together.”

Forbes’ most recent valuation of the Arizona Coyotes, which came out in December, pegged the team’s net operating income at -$15 million. That was even before the coronavirus pandemic suddenly halted many of the revenue streams NHL teams depend on.

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